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Gnoetry and Déjà Dit

November 20, 2009

From the collection of essays edited by Craig Dworkin, The Consequence of Innovation: 21st Century Poetics, here is a relevant exerpt from Marjorie Perloff’s contribution, “The Pleasures of Déjà Dit: Citation, Intertext and Ekphrasis in Recent Experimental Poetry.” I think it does a good job of situating our Gnoetry work (some strains of it, at least) within the larger context of current experimental poetry.

The limits of my language, in Wittgenstein’s words, are the limits of my world. In this scheme of things, the poetic drive is, in Adorno’s terms, one of resistance: the resistance of the individual poet to the linguistic field of capitalist commodification where language has become merely instrumental.

But in the climate of the new century, where sites of resistance have become increasingly eroded, we seem to be witnessing a poetic turn from negation and resistance to dialogue–a dialogue with earlier texts or texts in other media, or “writings through” or ekphrases that permit the poet to participate in a larger, more public discourse, even as the poet’s personal signature is once again present. Such poetry is often meditative, but meditation is made oblique by the use of Oulipo constraint, citation, and the reliance on intertext: appropriation, after all, is now a central fact of life. As such, we are witnessing a new poetry, more conceptual than expressive–a poetry in which, in Craig Dworkin’s words, “the idea cannot be separated from the writing itself.” (257)

I have to agree that “appropriation… is now a central fact of [poetic] life” for me. My music collection has benefited greatly from it too. On multiple layers of society, concepts of ownership have been challenged, made void and/or remade by revolutions and re-revolutions in technology. To ignore such that these upheavals are not relevant to poetry is foolish. Other artforms have been dealing with the implications of technology and contemporary thought for most of the last century, yet is seems that the bulk of poets remain attached to ideas rooted in the Romantic and Victorian periods. Painters who today paint fields and Impressionist landscapes are not usually artists taken seriously within their discipline. Why should the same not be true in poetry?

Anyway, I submit this excerpt for your consideration. The rest of the essay and the rest of the book is highly recommended too.

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